The Church is broken. Not just our local church, but most churches which surround us. Even those that we deem to be successful. Why? Well, the short answer is that people are broken. And people populate churches.
Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 1.
Before we dive into the lesson, here is your takeaway. The church is not about you. The church is not about your pet program – missions, choir, Sunday School, Small Groups or children’s ministry. The church is not right to life, the poor, or social justice.
The church is about Jesus Christ and fellowship with Him.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
To best understand 1 Corinthians we need some introductory materials.
Corinth is located in South Central Greece on the isthmus of Corinth. An isthmus is a narrow piece of land that connects two larger pieces of land. I will have a link in the show notes of a map of Corinth and there you should see the isthmus.
Today there is a canal that cuts the isthmus in half, allowing ships to avoid going around Peloponnese peninsula. But at the time of Paul the canal was not there. Rather, ships were pulled out of the water, placed on logs and dragged across the land. This type of portage made Corinth a great place of business because sailing crews would be delayed until their ship reached the other side.
Corinth was a very immoral city. Most cities have immorality, but Corinth took it to another level. The focal point of Corinth was the Temple of Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.
In ancient Corinth, there were over 1,000 temple prostitutes, both women and men who served the Temple of Aphrodite. Every day and every night they would pour into Corinth to sell their bodies in the name of worship. Many of the church members of Corinth were saved out of this wicked lifestyle.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
I wonder how many of you find yourself under the heading of “such were some of you…”? If we are honest, most of us fall under that heading.
But the good news is that Jesus has made you, believer, holy. And He replaced your gross sin with His righteousness. So we can say “such WERE some of you.”
And maybe that is part of the problem in the church today. We have forgotten two important things.
- The first thing we have forgotten is “such were some of you…” We have forgotten the sin out of which we have been rescued.
- The second thing we have forgotten is “such were some of you…” We have forgotten, or possibly never learned, that when Jesus saved us He made us holy and He credited us with His righteousness.
The key verse in 1 Corinthians is 1:9. I must credit Ray Stedman for this observation. I found it in his book Letters to a Troubled Church. I’ll put a link to this book in the show notes.
In verse 9 of 1 Corinthians 1 we key verse of the book.
Look at 1 Corinthians 1:9 again,
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The purpose of this epistle to restore our fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord.
The church is broken and we are broken because we no longer walk in fellowship with Jesus. Every human, regardless of their parentage, regardless of their accomplishments, regardless of their physical appearance – every human was created to have a relationship with God. But sin has broken that relationship.
This is why you struggle with many things. This is why your family struggles. Because we are not in fellowship with Jesus.
And of course, this was the problem with the church in Corinth. They believed on Jesus. They loved and worshipped Jesus. But they were out of fellowship.
Why was the church in Corinth out of fellowship?
- Judging of Others
- Sexual Immorality
- Marital Problems
- Self-centered worship
Is there a cure for this broken fellowship? Yes, and we can see it within the first nine verses.
Look again at 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. Count how many of these verses reference Jesus.
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our focus in life and the focus of the church must be on Jesus Christ.
Today most churches are self-centered organizations. They base their ministry around the personality of the pastor, or around a key ministry, or around a key family, or around a cause.
Music, media, and style, will often be the drawing card to a church. Not a church’s relationship with Jesus.
Years ago I was on staff at a church that had AWANA. AWANA is a children’s outreach and discipleship ministry. Occasionally, I would give tours to the people who would happen by the church. Some, when they saw the AWANA banner hanging in the hallway, would say, “this is the church for us because you have AWANA.”
Now I have no issue with AWANA. But these people would make a decision on a church before they heard one sermon, before they sampled one worship service, and before they even met the senior pastor. They were drawn to a church based on a children’s ministry. Their selection had nothing to do with Jesus.
Another example is this – I know many people who have left a church because their self-interests were no longer being met. And then they picked a church to meet that unmet need. In all the cases I know of, not one person left because of a lack of focus on Jesus.
In the next lesson, we will begin to study a church divided. And to prepare for it you should read the first 4 chapters of 1 Corinthians. And as you read, ask yourself – am I a divisive person?
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Letters to a Troubled Church by Ray C. Stedman